Anxiety is not something that’s new to me or my family. My parents, my sister, and many of my cousins, uncles, and aunts have struggled with it or continue to. But regardless of whether or not you have a family history of anxiety, or even a diagnosis, the truth is that we all feel burdened by fear and stress at times. So, I’ve compiled a list of helpful strategies that I employ when I feel an anxiety attack coming on, which can be caused by any number of factors. Sometimes, it’s just general “school anxiety,” or it can be more specific stimuli, like a stressful group presentation or exam coming up. Many of these suggestions are common pieces of advice, but they can be useful reminders, especially in that moment of panic.
- Don’t forget to breathe. It seems obvious, but I personally tend not to notice that I’ve stopped breathing. When I remind myself to take deep breaths, more oxygen gets to my brain. This helps me think clearly and realize there is nothing to be afraid about.
- Let yourself feel. I used to think that if I suppressed my anxieties, if I buried them and didn’t give them a voice, then they would stop bothering me. Instead, they just found other ways to get to me, even when I was actively trying not to think about them. I would find my anxiety level rising with no clear reason at all—which can be scarier than when I know the source. Therefore, my advice would be to talk it out, whether to yourself, or to a friend, or to someone on campus who you trust like a professor or counselor, and address why you feel anxious. Just saying it or writing it down will often make those overwhelming feelings start to dissipate.
- Change the setting. Geneseo has an arboretum for a reason. That’s my favorite place to go when I’m feeling anxious. Stepping into nature has been proven to have therapeutic effects, and it also encourages me to get some exercise. But even if you’re not going to our arboretum, it can feel liberating to step away from the environment you were just in and take a break. Another option is to get in touch with the mental health resources on campus, such as Pathways. While it can be intimidating to ask for help, it’s always worth it to surround yourself with a supportive network.
- Finally, do what works for you. Ultimately, this list isn’t a foolproof way of preventing a panic attack, and I know that different things work for different people. Another strategy that I use is counting to 100, just to get my mind off of things, but that’s not for everyone. The more you find things that calm your nerves, the more prepared you can be in times of stress.
Anxiety can affect you for any reason, especially after such a drastic change from high school to college. There are support systems here at your disposal for whenever you feel overwhelmed or anxious, and above all, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone.